Move for health
Posted on 11 May 2016
The most important exercise move you can do is to get off the couch. But once you’re up, what’s the best way to get moving? We asked a Mediclinic sports doctor for some basic exercises designed for people who’ve never set foot in a gym before.
If you’ve been sedentary (that’s another word for ‘inactive’, and a nicer word than ‘lazy’) for a long time, exercise can be quite an intimidating prospect. What exercises should you be doing? How much weight should you be lifting? And how should you even start?
The answers to those questions are ‘bodyweight’, ‘none (for now)’ and ‘slowly’, says Dr Herman Kotzé, a sports physician at Mediclinic Stellenbosch and the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport.
Dr Kotzé usually works with fit, active athletes, but he knows what it takes to start from scratch. If you’re entering a gym for the first time, don’t be put off by all the machines and heavy weights.
‘Start slowly, by doing normal bodyweight exercises,’ says Dr Kotzé. ‘By that I mean basic moves such as push-ups, pull-ups, dips, lunges and squats. Do them without any extra weights. Then supplement that with exercises to get your cardiovascular rate going. Rowing machine exercises are simple to do and get your heart rate up.’
That’s it for your first month and a half. Once your body has strengthened, you’re ready for the next step. ‘After about six weeks, when your body is used to doing bodyweight exercises, you can gradually start adding a bit of weight – but very, very slowly,’ says Dr Kotzé.
If you find yourself looking longingly towards the weights room, park that idea for now. ‘Stay away from the weights at first.’ says Dr Kotzé, ‘Just focus on your own bodyweight and on doing cardio work, until your body gets used to that. The strongest athletes in the world are gymnasts, and they don’t train with any weights. So get going with your own bodyweight first, then slowly start adding weights to your routine.’
When you feel ready, first speak to one of your gym’s on-site trainers before you start with weights. Lifting too much too soon, or using the incorrect body position, can cause injury. And if you’re injured and out of action, you’ll be right back where you started – stuck on the couch.